CMV and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

By: Women's Care Staff

Pregnancy can be one of the most beautiful and rewarding experiences in a woman’s life. It can also feel like one of the most stressful. Because so many factors affect pregnancy, mothers should minimize health risks when preparing for the months ahead. As many of you know, women should avoid the common factors that pose health risks during pregnancy such as alcohol, drugs, smoking, and age. However, many never heard of cytomegalovirus or CMV. CMV is a common, communicable virus that affects 50 to 80 percent of adults by age 40. In addition, CMV affects one in three children by age five. Although the symptoms tend to not show or appear mild in most people, CMV and pregnancy can cause serious issues.

Preventing CMV in pregnancy

A mother can pass cytomegalovirus in pregnancy through a new infection or reinfection with a new virus strain. Therefore, doctors stress the importance of prenatal or early testing for the virus. When found during an ultrasound, signs such as placental thickening, abnormality of amniotic fluid, or intracranial calcifications may also lead to CMV testing. For a complete list of screening signs, visit the National CMV Foundation website.

The cmv virus in newborns is known as congenital CMV. According to the National CMV Foundation, congenital CMV affects one in every 150 babies born each year. Furthermore, one in every five will develop permanent health problems. With as many as 400 infant deaths a year, we must continue to spread awareness of this preventable virus.

No mother wants to consider the consequences of passing on a virus on to her child. Many mothers assume they don’t have a virus considering they have no symptoms. However, we must stress its importance so mothers know the risks. Understand good hygiene is essential to its prevention. Simple hand washing is one of the best defenses against CMV. Plus, if other children exist, be mindful of contact with saliva on cups or toys and urine in diapers.

What if’s and treatment

As a parent, it can be difficult to deal with life’s “what-ifs.” The outcomes of a congenital CMV infection vary widely. While many babies show no or mild symptoms, others can experience moderate or severe disabilities, ranging from hearing loss to cerebral palsy. However, some symptoms don’t appear until after the age of two. In order to be accurately diagnosed with congenital CMV, infants must be tested within two to three weeks after birth. Testing is simple and when symptoms are present, antivirals are used to decrease further risk.

What’s the best thing you can do now? Be aware, and remember, congenital CMV is both preventable and treatable. If you are pregnant or considering getting pregnant, get tested. At Women’s Care, we stress the importance of thorough prenatal care, encouraging you to begin regular health visits as soon as possible and as early as the planning stage.

And if you have any questions about congenital CMV, speak with your doctor or contact an expert at Women’s Care.